EEOC Sues Merry Maids Franchise for Pregnancy Discrimination

Home Cleaning Company Fired Employee For Being Pregnant, Federal Agency Charges

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - V&B LLC, a Merry Maids home cleaning franchise in Kenosha, Wis., violated federal law by firing a woman because of her pregnancy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, the agency's investigation revealed that V&B fired Belinda Sternemann on June 3, 2011, because she suffered from pregnancy-related health issues.  Sternemann, a military veteran who worked for V&B for over two years, was a Team Captain on one of V&B's crews and had an unblemished work record.  Her pregnancy issues did not prevent her from working.

"Sometimes employers overreact and base employment decisions on an employee's pregnancy," said Rowe, who supervised the agency's investigation.  "Pregnant women have the same right as other individuals to earn a living."

V&B's alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who are disabled or perceived to be disabled.  The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The agency seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages for Sternemann, an order barring future discrimination and other relief.  The suit, captioned EEOC v. V&B LLC, d/b/a Merry Maids (Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-00363-LA, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and assigned to U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman.

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson said, "Thirty-six years after the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnancy discrimination continues to demand the EEOC's attention.  Employers who are over-protective sometimes don't think clearly and fail to ask questions that can allay their concerns.  The ADA requires employers to engage in discussions with employees they believe to be disabled before taking any action which would affect their employment rights - and we are determined to make employers comply with the law."

V&B LLC is a privately held company, co-owned by Vern Covington and Beth Pinzer, which employs approximately 20 women to provide house cleaning services.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.  The case will be litigated by attorneys in the Milwaukee Area Office. 

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment.  Further information about the agency is available on its website at

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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